Baroness Jan Royall is Labour's Shadow Leader of the House of Lords. She is leading a review of What Makes Politics Count for Young People for the Labour Party
I am proud to have spent the last four hours with thirty of the most amazing young people, all of whom are Young Ambassadors for the Prince’s Trust. Each one of them has had more adversity in their life than most of us will ever know or, in some cases, could ever imagine. Yet, thanks to their participation in one of the core programmes of the Prince’s Trust they have transformed their lives and they are now young leaders, giving something back to the Trust and giving huge amounts to their community.
Through the support of the Trust they have overcome barriers, developed life skills and found confidence. They have also found their voices and they are now powerful advocates for young people.
Some of our discussions focussed on ‘what makes politics count’ for young people. At the beginning of our conversation, whilst they had strong views on everything from education to social care, from unemployment to healthcare, from transport to childcare and the economy, they did not know how to use their personal experience and opinions to influence decisions and decision-makers. The system has failed these young people in many ways, not least through a lack of political education. Citizenship lessons are important – and must be retained as part of the core curriculum – but they are not enough. These young people, and so many others that I meet, actually want political education and they want their passions to be channelled into practical changes to our society.
By the end of our conversation some political sparks had been ignited and I am sure that in future most of these young people will vote, many of them will want to engage with their local and national representatives and perhaps get involved.
As a Labour politician, I naturally speak of Labour policies and from a Labour perspective, but I am always clear that my main goal is to better understand what makes politics, of whatever party, count for young people. Until we crack that conundrum and encourage more young people to vote and engage with politics, our democracy will not be truly representative and the policies that parties pursue will not be influenced and shaped by the people who will be longest affected by them.